In 2016, Californian Angela Bolger ordered a replacement laptop battery through Amazon. After receiving it, she snapped it in the port. It made a weird sound, and as she lifted it to her ear for a closer listen, it exploded. Battery shrapnel caught her bed and floor on fire, sending her to the hospital with severe burns.
This story is far too common. Last year, a California measure began and ended in controversy as it sought to hold online marketplaces like Amazon liable for the products sold on their websites.
If your life has been impacted by a defective product, contact the Santa Barbara product liability attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards.
Consumer protection laws vary from state to state, and all of them were written long before e-commerce existed, rendering them out of date. Even though the battery came from a third-party retailer, Bolger won her lawsuit against Amazon in a California appeals court, holding Amazon liable because it stored and shipped the battery through their Fulfilled by Amazon service.
The Bolger and other recent rulings against Amazon are setting a new precedent protecting online shoppers. Since Amazon serves as a gateway for third-party retailers, these new rulings place the onus on Amazon to be the gatekeeper by ensuring they provide authentic and safe products.
These rulings could also impact Amazon’s business model. According to market research from Statista, the millions of third-party sellers on Amazon’s platform add up to about 55% of their sales. Third-party seller’s service revenue hit $23.7 billion in the first quarter of this year alone. That’s a 60% increase year-over-year.
All e-commerce has seen a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Amazon has benefited the most from this consumer shift. The company’s net sales continue to soar, increasing 44% to $108.5 billion in this year’s first quarter compared to the same period last year.
Last year, a new consumer protection bill, AB 3262, was introduced to the California Assembly. The bill would hold e-commerce marketplaces to the same liability standards applied to brick-and-mortar retailers. The bill started strong but came under fire until it was eventually killed.
Online outlets like eBay, Etsy, and Shopify as well as trade organizations and industry groups criticized the bill as unnecessary and claimed it stifled small businesses.
Before the bill’s demise, it amended exemptions for auctions, handmade goods, and websites that function to connect buyers with third-party sellers directly. In a strange twist, Amazon showed conditional support for the bill if it included all the online marketplaces regardless of business models.
It takes timing and proof the product caused an injury to win a product liability claim. The Santa Barbara product liability attorneys at the Law Offices of John B. Richards will investigate every claim and assemble a compelling case for our clients to obtain proper compensation.